Josh Hoekstra is entering his eighth season as the head coach of the Clay Blue Devils. 1010XL caught up with Hoekstra discuss the upcoming season.
“This is a different group just in terms of, we have seniors, but a lot of them haven’t played a lot,” Hoekstra told 1010XL. “I’m lucky to have a great coaching staff that is putting in a lot of time with these kids.
“We are very excited, but it’s going to be tough, our district is really good. Top to bottom I think it’s as good as any other district around.”
With the emergence of programs like Fleming Island and Oakleaf, Clay County has become a good county for high school football.
“I really like playing everybody in the county and I think it’s great that we get to do that,” Hoekstra said. “I think that gets us ready for when we get into 5A district play. It’s awesome to play teams like Oakleaf and Fleming Island. I think Ridgeview is going to be really explosive on offense and Orange Park is going to bet better.
“It’s a great county, the kids know each other and I really think the coaches in Clay County do a great job.”
A rivalry that has developed in a big way as of late is Clay and Baker County.
“I think it’s a healthy rivalry that has a lot of respect between two really good programs,” Hoekstra said. “I think both coaching staffs do a really good job and that is one that you get really excited for.
“It’s turned into a great game, a great atmosphere, it’s a lot of fun and it really is what high school football is all about.”
The Blue Devils recently have gotten off to slow starts, but by November, have been one of the area teams other programs do not want to play. Why does Clay become so much better as the season unfolds?
“I think it’s a testament to the coaches and the kids more than anything,” Hoekstra said. “We just try to get a little bit better each day.
“There are no easy games on our schedule, I like it that way, but at the same time we may start 2-2, or 1-3 again and that is just how it goes.
“We focus a lot on taking care of the district. You still have to do that. You have to win your district games because if you have home playoff games you put yourself in a good spot and if you don’t, you make it tough on yourself.”
Clay will open its season on Friday, August 24, against in-county rival Fleming Island.
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreenGN)